Tips for Vibrant Color
To help your Bougainvillea achieve its full color potential during season, follow these simple steps:
- Regularly feed your plant with a balanced fertilizer high in iron and other micronutrients;
- Ensure proper watering by using this simple rule of thumb: If few leaves, but some color – not enough water; If lots of leaves, but little color – too much water; If a combination of healthy leaves and color – just right;
- Maximize color by “pinching” or pruning the ends of your Bougainvillea after each bloom cycle, since Bougainvillea will only show color on new growth.
Bougainvillea are drought-tolerant, requiring infrequent watering once established. Bring the soil to visual dryness, and then water the soil thoroughly (avoid frequent, light watering since this will promote a weak and shallow root system). Do not let your Bougainvillea become too dry, as this will cause flowers and foliage to drop. On the other hand, over-watering, or allowing Bougainvillea to sit in water, may cause severe bract-drop or may even cause the plant to stop blooming altogether. If your Bougainvillea is grown in a pot, please ensure that drainage holes are unobstructed, since Bougainvillea do not like wet roots!
Bougainvillea thrive outside. For maximum blooming, they need direct sunlight for at least 5 hours per day. In the absence of sufficient sunlight, i.e. if planted in shade or partial shade that results in less than 5 hours of sunlight per day, your Bougainvillea may have healthy vegetative growth, but little or no bract formation or flowering.
Bougainvillea are tropical plants, being native to Brazil, and thrive in intense heat. Bougainvillea grow best in Hardiness Zones 9 and up, but can be enjoyed seasonally in other zones either as an annual or if they are protected and brought indoors during winter months. Bougainvillea must be protected from frost and freezing temperatures.
Bougainvillea are heavy feeders, and they require regular (every 30 days or so) fertilization, especially during the flowering months (Sept-Nov and Mar-May). We recommend a balanced fertilizer with high iron and other micronutrients to strengthen delicate roots and intensify color of bracts and foliage, such as a 20-20-20 or 6-8-10 formulation. Do not apply fertilizer to dry soil, and do not attempt to over fertilize, since this will not produce faster growth and may, in fact, damage the plant. Reduce the frequency to half during non-coloring months, especially under cool temperatures.
Bougainvillea grow best when given ample space in well-drained loamy soil (made up of equal parts sand, silt, and clay), mixed with organic matter that allows nutrients and oxygen to more easily reach the roots. When choosing an area to plant your Bougainvillea, remember to plant on higher ground and away from areas where flooding is likely.